Canadian film and TV actor Yannick Bisson is known to fans around the world for his portrayal of 19th-century detective William Murdoch on CBC’s award-winning Murdoch Mysteries, now in its 12th season. Off-screen, he’s a busy director, mountain biker, charity fundraiser, husband and father of three daughters.

Sharing this hectic life is Yannick’s wife of 28 years, Shantelle Bisson, a producer and actor who hosts a regular TV segment as a relationship and parenting expert, writes about family issues, fundraises for various causes and regularly emcees charity galas. She also oversees the family’s three properties and a recently acquired marina.

“The older you get, the more attuned you are to devoting time and energy to what’s important. For us, that’s our health, our children and each other.”

The busy couple both turn 50 this year, and one lesson they’ve learned: “Life is a balancing act – which everyone will tell you, of course,” says Shantelle. “To maintain the health of your body, and especially of your relationship, requires attention and occasionally a little planning.” Yannick echoes the same thought: “The older you get, the more attuned you are to devoting time and energy to what’s important. For us, that’s our health, our children and each other.”

Nutrition takes centre stage on and off the stage

The Bisson household has followed an organic diet since 2006. “A friend and I went on a detox while on holiday and that was the turning point,” says Shantelle. “I learned about toxins. I began to appreciate food as medicine – and that healthy food has the power to influence your lifespan and energy levels.”

The couple revamped their diet to focus on healthy grains, good fats and high-protein foods, with lots of vegetables.

“Eating healthy gets tricky when we’re away from home,” says Yannick. “When I’m shooting episodes of Murdoch Mysteries, I pay close attention to the amount of food I eat because my exercise levels decrease once shooting beings. And when I eat unhealthy food, I feel like garbage.”

Fitness: An important part of the script

“In hectic periods, I keep sickness at bay and maintain energy levels by exercising four times each week,” says Shantelle. “I always feel so much more mentally alert after a workout.” Once in a while she’ll join Yannick in his major outdoor passion – mountain biking. “But I seldom keep up.”

He has been mountain biking for 14 years and occasionally competes. His go-to spots in Ontario include Blue Mountain, Dundas Valley and Dufferin Highlands. “I can lose myself when I’m mountain biking on a trail. Not only is it a great workout; biking helps me recharge – and spend time outdoors,” he says. Ensuring a dose of natural vitamin D is a priority. “Spending too much time indoors starts to pound away at your system. When I’m in the studio all day with artificial lighting, I feel it emotionally and physically.”

Yannick and Shantelle Bisson make relaxing at home a priority. Photo: Katherine Holland.

Knowing when to take a break

The Bissons value the importance of staying rooted, but carving out downtime isn’t always easy. “Sometimes we’re at the mercy of other people’s schedules,” says Yannick. “We both need to field endless emails and stay on top of our social media responsibilities – that’s part of our world.”

Their strategies? Yannick unplugs at lunchtime when he’s working at home: “I need that breather just to listen to music, nap, have some quiet time. And in the evenings, I tend not to go back to the phone after dinner if I can help it.”

Shantelle keeps phones and communication devices out of the bedroom: “It’s important for us to get quality sleep. In fact, our Wi-Fi is on a timer, so it shuts off.” In the mornings, she doesn’t turn on her phone or email for the first 90 minutes of the day: “I take time for myself, my morning intentions, and I think about what I’m grateful for.”

The next act

While the Bissons have always valued healthy living, they say it’s even more crucial at this stage of their lives. “Vitality and staying mentally sharp are crucial for us,” says Yannick. “We want to model healthy living for our adult children – to walk the talk – and we fully intend to be active, energetic grandparents one day. Our daughters are 29, 27 and 22. If we’re going to lead by example, now is the time.”

This article originally appeared in Issue 4 of YouAreUNLTD magazine.

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Doug O'Neill
O’Neill, formerly Executive Editor of Canadian Living, writes on all manner of topics for a variety of Canadian publications – but has a preference for storytelling that gets to the heart of things. “Writing about journeys has always fascinated me,'” says contributor Doug O’Neill, “whether I’m scribbling about my own travels around the world or about other people’s inspiring journeys as they navigate from one life stage to another.”