Abstract Background Sedentary behavior (SB) is linked to negative health outcomes in older adults. Most studies use summary values, e.g., total sedentary minutes/day. Diurnal timing of SB accumulation may further elucidate SB-health associations. Methods Six thousand two hundred four US women (mean age = 79 ± 7; 50% White, 34% African-American) wore accelerometers for 7-days at baseline, yielding 41,356 person-days with > 600 min/day of data. Annual follow-up assessments of health, including physical functioning, were collected from participants for 6 years. A novel two-phase clustering procedure discriminated participants’ diurnal SB patterns: phase I grouped day-level SB trajectories using longitudinal k-means; phase II determined diurnal SB patterns based on proportion of phase I trajectories using hierarchical clustering. Mixed models tested associations between SB patterns and longitudinal physical functioning, adjusted for covariates including total sedentary time. Effect modification by moderate-vigorous-physical activity (MVPA) was tested. Results Four diurnal SB patterns were identified: p1 = high-SB-throughout-the-day; p2 = moderate-SB-with-lower-morning-SB; p3 = moderate-SB-with-higher-morning-SB; p4 = low-SB-throughout-the-day. High MVPA mitigated physical functioning decline and correlated with better baseline and 6-year trajectory of physical functioning across patterns. In low MVPA, p2 had worse 6-year physical functioning decline compared to p1 and p4. In high MVPA, p2 had similar 6-year physical functioning decline compared to p1, p3, and p4. Conclusions In a large cohort of older women, diurnal SB patterns were associated with rates of physical functioning decline, independent of total sedentary time. In particular, we identified a specific diurnal SB subtype defined by less SB earlier and more SB later in the day, which had the steepest decline in physical functioning among participants with low baseline MVPA. Thus, diurnal timing of SB, complementary to total sedentary time and MVPA, may offer additional insights into associations between SB and physical health, and provide physicians with early warning of patients at high-risk of physical function decline.