Financial Fitness regime is the key to healthy spendingTORONTO, Oct. 29, 2013 /CNW/ - Debt levels are on the rise across Canada, the number of Canadians who report being debt-free has decreased. Fewer than one-quarter (24 per cent) of Canadians are now debt free, down from 26 per cent in 2012, according to the 3rd annual RBC Debt Poll. Canadians are focusing on financial fitness with a year-round emphasis on spending less and saving more. As the number of people carrying debt has increased, the average personal debt (non-mortgage) reached $15,920 in 2013 (up from $13,141 in 2012). Anxiety around debt is still a reality for many, as nearly four-in-ten (38 per cent) Canadians are very anxious about their debt levels, up from 34 per cent in 2012, but the same number of Canadians (38 per cent) are comfortable with their debt. According to the poll, in an effort to practice financial fitness and reduce personal debt, Canadians have gone back to basics - reigning in spending by putting off big ticket items including vacations and vehicles. "Despite the rising debt figure, there is a noticeable trend to responsible debt behaviour over the past year," said Kim Taylor, director, Personal Lending, RBC. "We are also seeing that others need to take a step back to better manage the debt they are carrying. Before you start on any new routine, it is always best to set goals and have a plan in place. Marathon training often begins with a 5k race, and a financial plan with a path to debt repayment is key to your financial fitness success." The RBC Debt Poll found that there was a great divide between Western and Eastern Canada, with debt levels increasing a staggering 35 per cent* in the West compared to 20 per cent in the East since 2012. Alberta, faced with regional floods earlier this year, showed a significant increase in debt load, rising 63 per cent from 2012. Despite the higher percentage of debt in the West, residents of Eastern Canada (41 per cent) are more anxious than their Western neighbours (34 per cent) about their debt levels. *Does not include Alberta data, which was collected after the Alberta floods. "Regardless of where you live, it remains clear that Canadians on the whole can benefit from understanding the true cost of debt and responsible borrowing practices," said Taylor. "If you're uncertain about debt, talk to a professional and build a roadmap on how to get to where you need to be. Knowledge is power, and a planner can help provide you with the tools you need to move forward."